ATLANTA (AP) – An author whose outspoken criticism of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian West Bank got him banned from a Jewish book festival in Atlanta spoke Wednesday night at a sold-out event at an alternate location.
“This experience has taught me I should be boycotted more often,” Peter Beinart quipped to a packed room, thanking those in attendance for the hospitality he had been shown since arriving in the southern city.
Beinart was originally one of 52 writers invited to speak at this week’s Book Festival of the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta, which attracts about 10,000 people each year. Bowing to pressure from some local Jews offend by Beinart’s views, festival organizers then canceled his scheduled appearance _ sparking a backlash to the backlash.
Beinart was then scheduled to speak in a smaller venue in downtown Atlanta, nearly 20 miles from the festival site at the suburban community center. The 200 seats allotted for his talk quickly sold out.
A popular blogger and associate professor of journalism and political science at The City University of New York, Beinart’s most recent book “The Crisis of Zionism” criticizes hawkish Jewish leaders in Israel and the United States for their continued support for Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories seized in 1967 during the Six-Day War.
Beinart argued it is these conservative Jewish leaders, not the Palestinians, who are the primary obstacles to peace, thereby making the future of the Jewish state more precarious and less democratic.
“The problem is not that Jews live in the West Bank,” Beinart said. “It is today the West Bank is a place where, contrary to the vision of Israel’s founders, citizenship is ethnically based, where Jews and Palestinians live under a different law.”
Beinart said the system, where millions of Palestinians are subjected to the routine humiliations of living under military rule while Jewish settlers receive government housing subsidies and security, will eventually force Israelis to choose between having a Jewish nation or a democratic one.
“By supporting settlement growth you are pushing the Palestinians in the exact direction we don’t want them to go,” he said.
For many Jews, such open criticism of Israel and its leader, pro-settlement Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, borders on heresy, especially coming from a member of their own tribe.
The debate exemplifies a deepening divide among Jewish Americans, roughly represented by organizations like the traditional pro-Israel lobbying group American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and J Street, a liberal-leaning group that promotes a two-state solution through diplomacy instead of military action.
Beinart’s talk in Atlanta happened to coincide Wednesday with a sharp escalation of the conflict, with Israeli warplanes bombing targets in the Gaza Strip, killing the military leader of Hamas in retaliation for weeks of rocket attacks on towns in southern Israel. Beinart said he fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself, but suggested the Jewish state’s continued military blockade of the densely populated and impoverished Gaza Strip strengthened Hamas’ hold on political power rather than weakened it.
Not dissimilarly, the decision to ban Beinart from speaking at the book festival appeared to heighten interest in what he had to say.
The community center’s president, Steve Cadranel, emphasized in a statement that it is a nonpartisan and nonpolitical organization and said the center helped arrange for Beinart to speak instead at the historic Atlanta home of the novelist Margaret Mitchell, author of “Gone With the Wind.”
“In the end, the decision to avoid risking that the MJCCA might be seen as sponsoring a `controversial position on Israeli politics’ and working to secure an alternative venue for Mr. Beinart to share his views, seemed to be the best course,” he said.
Israel was founded in response to the slaughter of millions in the Holocaust, providing Jews a homeland of their own for the first time in 2,000 years. Unless Israelis make a fair and lasting peace with their Palestinian neighbors, Beinart warned, that nation might turn out to be built on sand.
“Zionism at its core, I believe, is about giving Jews control over our own destiny,” he said. “Settlement growth threatens the core of the Zionist dream because it takes that destiny out of Jewish hands.”
Follow AP writer Michael Biesecker at twitter.com/mbieseck
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- 7 common ways to get sued by your employees
- Why it might be time to upgrade your toilet
- Arizona teachers are building a better future by using technology in the classroom
- How to make summer reading fun for the whole family
- How to find relief for chronic joint pain
- Can the NBA Lottery save the Suns?
- Skip Urgent Care: 5 ailments you can treat with telemedicine
- Skin Cancer in Arizona: Stats, facts and new immunotherapy drugs making strides
- Distracted walking injuries end up not so funny
- Scary situations: 5 quick tips before you let a contractor in your home
- Four ways telemedicine is changing the health care industry
- 5 mistakes homeowners make in the spring
- Three rivers run through it: Exploring Arizona's waterways
- Smart home basics: things you need to know to get started
- 5 Surprising things causing back pain
- Arizona agriculture is a $17.1B industry
- Timeline: Arizona's roots in brewing history
- 5 reasons to love the D-backs this season
- Tips for taking your home entertainment experience to the backyard
- Tech-related injuries your parents never experienced
- Workers comp: Signs your co-worker could be a fraud
- Who's the real founder of America's pastime?
- Epidemic rising? What you need to know about Alzheimer's in Arizona
- 5 unforgettable Wooden Award winners
- Family and hard work are keys to success of modern dairy farmers
- Genetic testing could hold answers for colon cancer survival
- Cold beers and baseball: A beer lover's guide to Spring Training
- Telecommuting: 5 tips to make it work for employers and employees
- See how top CFOs feel about economic growth in the Valley
- Migraine myths that keep patients from effective treatments